It’s Saturday morning, Easter, and I’m sitting at in a cafe drinking a latte and thinking the sorts of thoughts that seldom improve my life, when a girl child sits down next me and a mug of something warm is placed in front of her.
‘Hello,’ I say to her, ‘is that a cappuccino you’re having?’
She laughs, in that way children do when an adult has said something stupid, and says ‘No, it’s hot chocolate,’
I watch her as she starts to eat the hot chocolate with a teaspoon.
And then I say to her-‘I think you’re about 5 years old,’
She says no, again, in that same you’re-a-know-nothing-adult way.
‘I’m 6,’ she says as she eats her hot chocolate from the teaspoon.
‘So being 6 you probably have a job, am I right?’
‘Nooooooooo,’ she says, and giggles with her mouthful of hot chocolate.
‘Well if you haven’t got a job what do you do with yourself all day long?’
‘I go to school’ she says and laughs as she leans across the table, takes the sugar pourer in her right hand and then pours a great cascade of white sugar into her hot chocolate.
I immediately look at her teeth and start to worry.
‘You know,’ I say, ‘a lot of sugar can be quite bad for your teeth,’
She looks at me and smiles and shakes the sugar pourer up and down and then empties the content of the sugar pourer into her hot chocolate.
Not being my child, and her parents sitting at another table, I wonder whether to call to them or take matters into my own hands.
‘What’s your name?’ I say and she tells me it’s Tamara.
‘Well, Tamara,’ I say, a lot of sugar can be very bad for your teeth, it can make holes in them and it can do nasty things to your body,’
This doesn’t frighten Tamara because she stands up, walks to another table, takes another sugar dispenser and comes back and pours even more sugar into her hot chocolate.
Then Tamara, who has pigtails in her hair and is wearing a black tee shirt with a butterfly on it and some kind of fairy dress, eats some more hot chocolate, looks over at me, smiles, and then pours more sugar from the dispenser right into her chocolate.
Realising the child is a fully-blown sugar addict, and denial is not a river in Africa, I change topic and ask her what school she goes to.
‘What school do you go to?’
‘Edginton primary,’ she says, getting off her chair, moving it back from the table and climbing back on to kneel on it.
‘And where do you live?’ I say.
‘Jeeez,’ she says rolling her eyes, ‘I live in Queensland,’
‘In Edginton?’ I ask.
She rolls her eyes again and repeats the word Queensland.
‘Well maybe if the school is called Edginton primary your town is called Edginton…maybe?’
‘I dunno,’ she says lunging at the sugar dispenser again.
‘Look,’ I whisper with insistence, leaning in close to the ear of this child who I have no stake in educating, ‘you are putting way too much sugar into your chocolate, you will make yourself sick and when you’re older you’ll spend a shed load of time at the dentist being drilled and filled. Is that a future you want for yourself?’
Then she looks over at me, a semi-afraid, semi-sad look on her face and then she leans forward and pushes the sugar dispensers from her reach, into the middle of the table.
Then, because I feel mean and that I may just have just traumatised a child who has a raging sugar habit, I change the subject and tell her that her dress looks really pretty.
‘Your dress looks really pretty,’ I say, ‘I really like all those different colours,’
‘It’s not even a dress,’ she says, kneeling up on her chair, the spoon half way to her mouth, her condescending eye roll in full flight, ‘It’s called a skirt.’